Dario Franchitti breaks oval-track drought, thrills home country fans with victory at Rockingham Motor Speedway. CORBY, Northamptonshire, England - (September 14, 2002) - Dario Franchitti ( ...
Dario Franchitti breaks oval-track drought, thrills home country fans with victory at Rockingham Motor Speedway.
CORBY, Northamptonshire, England - (September 14, 2002) - Dario Franchitti (#27 Team Green Honda/Lola Bridgestone) is no stranger to Victory Lane, having captured nine CART FedEx Championship Series victories heading into this weekend's Sure For Men Rockingham 500 but the veteran set a new first for himself in front of a home crowd Saturday, leading the final 39 of the day's 211 laps to capture his first CART oval-track victory.
Franchitti used quick pit work from his Team Green squad on the last stop to assume the lead with 39 trips around the 1.479-mile oval left to run and held off series points leader Cristiano da Matta (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola Bridgestone) by less than a second to snare his 10th career CART win. The victory tied him with da Matta and four other drivers for 10th on the all-time Champ Car list.
Flying the Scottish flag on the front of his machine in front of the British crowd, Franchitti came from fifth on the grid and spent the first half of the event setting up his pit strategy, as he tried to recover from a stall on his first stop. He would pit three times in the first 67 laps, a fact that would allow him to take the lead for the first time on Lap 94 when the rest of the field pitted for the second time. He would get back in sync with the rest of the pack when everyone pitted for the final time under a caution, brought out by Tony Kanaan's (#10 Pioneer/WorldCom Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) crash in Turn Two. From there, Franchitti was able to maintain his position as da Matta would be content to widen his series points lead with a runner-up finish.
Da Matta would earn his ninth podium of the 2002 campaign and stretch his championship advantage to 58 points over Bruno Junqueira (#4 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) with the second-place run. The finish ended the title hopes for all but three of da Matta's pursuers as the Newman/Haas Racing driver holds 191 points with four races to go, meaning that everyone with fewer than 100 points were eliminated from championship contention today.
One of those included Kenny Brack (#12 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone), who saw a career day end with pit-stop woes on his final trip down Pit Lane. Brack led 134 laps on the day, the highest number of laps the Swede has ever led in a single event, but fell from first to ninth on his last stop and would settle for eighth place.
Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) kept himself in the title chase with a third-place run, climbing from 10th on the starting grid to snare his first oval-track podium of the season. Carpentier snapped up two spots on his first stint with strong passes, then got quick service from his crew to gain three spots on his first pit stop. He got the same benefit from the yeoman work of the Player's squad on the final stop, gaining another three positions to move from sixth to third - where he would eventually finish.
The day was bright for a number of teams that haven't seen a lot of the sun this year, including the Patrick Racing squad with Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) at the wheel. The Spaniard matched the team's best finish of the season with a fourth-place run, climbing 10 spots from his spot on the starting grid.
Walker Racing completed one of its best weekends of the season with Tora Takagi (#5 Pioneer Denso Special Toyota/Reynard/Bridgestone) parlaying a fourth-place qualifying run into a sixth-place finish. Takagi ran second after the first round of pit stops and seriously challenged Brack for the lead during the second stint, but would settle for sixth in a run that would vault him ahead of fellow countryman Shinji Nakano (#52 Alpine/Mitsuba Honda/Lola Bridgestone) for 15th in the point standings.
The day was also a beacon for the startup operation of the all-English Team St. George, which saw rookie driver Darren Manning (#19 RAC Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) become the first driver since Takagi to score a top-10 finish in his Champ Car debut. Manning thrilled the Rockingham crowd by leading 18 laps and bringing his car home in ninth despite the loss of one of the end plates off his rear wing.
Junqueira would keep his title aspirations alive as well with a fifth-place finish, joining Franchitti and Carpentier as the only drivers that can claim a mathematical shot at running down da Matta. His fifth-place run made him the only driver in the series to earn top-10 placings in each of CART's four oval events this season.
Front-row starter Michael Andretti (#39 Motorola Honda/Lola/Bridgestone) would run up front for the first two stints and challenged for the lead early on, but would end his day in the 10th spot after suffering a stop-and-go penalty on his second stop.
CHAMP CAR TOP-THREE QUOTES
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 KOOL Honda/Lola/Bridgestone): "My mum, both grandmothers, great aunt and everybody I've ever met in my life seemed to be here. At the start of the race it was difficult to get around anybody. On the first stop I was on the rev limiter and it just stalled. I thought it was the traction control but it was the clutch. We got out of sequence and the leaders didn't dictate the laps I was turning. It came down to the last stop and the guys, who I have been pretty hard on this year, had a peach. They put me out in the lead and I was able to stretch my legs. It's great to get a win on an oval and at home. Right now this feels great."
CRISTIANO DA MATTA (#6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone): "I was of course very worried about the points lead coming here this weekend. I thought I had a car to win with the short and long straightaways. It's very important when you can collect 16 points at this stage in the season. That's just one less race we have left."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone): "It was a good day for us. I have to admit my guys did a great job for me. I went from I think sixth to third on the last stop so I guess I owe those guys a beer." (On the wing changes before the race) "It worked for the restarts, but at the end when I was following these two guys [Franchitti and da Matta] I met Michael [Andretti] and had to lift. But if they [leaders] left me alone [Oriol] Servia probably would have had a run on me. The wing was good to pass on the restarts and to go flat out all the way around."
* Kenny Brack led 134 laps on the day and passed Helio Castroneves and Johnny Rutherford to move into 15th on CART's all-time laps led list. Brack has now led 1,028 orbits in his career.
* Jimmy Vasser (#8 Shell Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ran the fastest lap of the race on the day's penultimate orbit, setting a new race record with a circuit at 25.217 seconds (211.143 mph/339.801 km/h)
* Darren Manning became the first rookie since Scott Dixon (#44 Target Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone) to lead laps in his CART debut, Dixon having led 14 laps last season in Monterrey.
* Mario Dominguez (#55 Dona Maria Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) led his first lap in CART competition when he was scored as the leader on Lap 47.
* Michel Jourdain (#9 Office Depot Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) finished 11th after starting 19th, extending his streak of points-paying finishes to 15 in a row.